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Health, Science & Environment

Proposal Melds State Environment Agencies

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The Utah Department of Environmental Quality is planning to consolidate two state agencies to improve efficiency.

Utah’s Radiation Control Division oversees everything from dental X-ray machines to a massive radioactive waste site, and the proposal has scientists and engineers joining the state’s solid and hazardous waste program. DEQ Director Amanda Smith says the plan retains staff expertise and institutional knowledge.

“I don’t the think that the question of whether the people will be safer is even a relevant question,” says Smith. “The goal is to be more protective of public health, to be more transparent, to add value to that process.”

A 2012 state audit attacked the radiation control division for lax oversight of EnergySolutions. The low-level radioactive waste site in Tooele County has asked to bury big volumes of depleted uranium, a kind of radioactive waste that gets more hazardous over time. It’s unclear whether old or new regulators would decide

“I think our biggest fear,” says Matt Pacenza, policy director for the environmental group HEAL Utah, “is that they take the decision away from someone who has spent years studying it and hand it off to someone who might have weeks at best.”

Pacenza’s group is waiting to see legislative language before weighing in on the proposal.

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